Hell and Nearly Blowing My Cover

hell23-1024x576My conversation with Mark and Lance on Monday didn’t stay on the topic of sales.  At some point in time Mark and Lance got in a debate about free will and the morality of God.  I was pretty much content to just sit back and watch Mark tear Lance to shreds with logic, but then the conversation went here:

Mark: So what about all the people who lived during the time of Christ but never heard of him?  Biblically speaking “faith comes through hearing”, but they never heard the Gospel.  So why did God create them if they never had a chance of ending up anywhere but hell?

Lance: It is possible that through natural revelation they could come to an understanding of God, and they would have been judged based on what they know…

Mark: But that’s not the point of Romans 1.  According Paul, natural revelation only condemns, it doesn’t save.  Are you suggesting that people could be saved aside from the gospel?

Lance: Well…in a sense some of them might be, but I couldn’t say for sure.  But we also have to take into account that God not only knows everything, but he knows all the possible outcomes of people’s free choices.  For those who never heard the gospel and are yet condemned it’s not improbable to think that God foreknew that they would reject him even if they did hear it.

Mark: So billions of people were created, just to go to hell?

Lance: No, of course not.  People freely choose to reject God even though nature has revealed he is true in their hearts.

Mark: But these people didn’t reject God, they never heard the gospel.

Lance: But an all knowing God would know that had they’d be given the chance, they still would have rejected him.

Mark: So they were created just to go to hell.

Lance: No, God didn’t create them to go to hell.  They chose that on their own.

I interject

Me: Wait, wait, wait… but if God knew they were going to hell why did he create them at all? Is he not responsible for their eternal torment?

Lance: No, he’s not responsible.  Just because he knew what people would freely choose doesn’t make him responsible for their choices.  If we can imagine a timeline with the beginning of someone’s life being “A” and the end of someone’s life is “D”, just because God knows “D” doesn’t make him responsible for their free choices.

Me: But they don’t have a free will if their destiny has already been determined.

Lance: But God isn’t the one determining it.

Me: But he knows about it!  And if my destiny is already fixed, it is known what I will do and will not do, then free will is an illusion.  God already knows that I have no other path to go, so why create me at all?  In this instance God is the only one with a truly free will and with full knowledge of my eternal damnation he chooses to create me and creates me for hell.

Lance: But God didn’t create hell for you.  Who does the scriptures say hell was created for?  The devil and his angels.

heaven-hell-street-signsMark chimes back in

Mark: Yeah but when God created it, if he is all knowing, he knew that a majority of mankind would end up there.  How is he not responsible for the eternal torture of hell?

Lance: I don’t see how he is responsible.

Now we’re tag teaming.  This is hardly fair to poor Lance.  Two trained pastors verses a layman, we aren’t picking on someone our own “size”.

hitler12Me: Listen, let’s get theoretical about this.  Suppose you knew, you knew, beyond a shadow of doubt that your next child that you haven’t conceived yet will end up being worse than Hitler.

Lance: So, you mean like I can see point “D” in his life?

Me: Exactly.  You knew that somewhere between A and D your son, yet to be conceived, was going to kill millions of people.

Lance: Ok

Me: If you went ahead, and you and your wife create this child, are you not at least partly responsible for the deaths of millions of people?

Lance: No! I am not responsible for the free choices of other people.  The blame rests on their shoulders not mine.

Me: But you and your wife were the only people who had the knowledge and real power to stop the slaughter of millions of people.  How are you not somewhat responsible in that case?

Lance: Wait, are you an atheist too?

Me: Well…uh, uh…you know, I like to ask hard questions.  I think it’s what makes me good at my job

Tag Mark

Mark: Forget theoretical.  Let’s talk reality.  If God exists, and he created mankind, knowing ahead of time that man would sin, and through sin death would enter world, and war, and cancer, and starvation…and then a majority of those people end up in hell forever, how is he in any way good, moral, or just?

Lance: Because we don’t think like God does.  There is perhaps a higher moral value that necessitates these things.  Sin must be punished, evil must meet justice.

Tag me

Me: How is an eternal hell just?  Why does hell even need to exist at all?

Lance: Because justice requires the punishment of wrong doing.

Me: Ok, but why does that punishment have to be conscious eternal, as in forever, torment?

Lance: You have to prove that there is not a morally justifiable reason for God to do this.

Me: No, that’s not how proof works.  You have to prove that there is a morally justifiable cause for doing something so obviously immoral.

Lance: But if God exists and he is a moral being based off his character, then there is obviously a moral cause that you perhaps haven’t seen.

Me: But there is no reason for Hell to exist.  It didn’t have to be created.  You could take an annihilationist view, like the Mormons or the JWs.  Why couldn’t God just have these people cease to exist?

Lance: But we are eternal beings. So we don’t stop being eternal after death.

Me: Yes and no.  You haven’t always existed.  There was a time when you were not.  Why couldn’t a damned person just cease to exist.  That would certainly be more humane than an eternal hell.

I spend most of the rest of the argument trying to convert him not to atheism but annihilationism.  Best to keep my cover that way.

Apparently Lance and Mark continued there conversation via text through the night. These kind of conversations make me want to work for Mark’s company.  Still need more $ though.

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43 thoughts on “Hell and Nearly Blowing My Cover

  1. There is no free will at gunpoint. Christianity is the ultimate protection racket. I would rather burn in Hell than serve the god that would send me there. Would any amount of evidence change Lance’s mind?

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    • Would any amount of evidence change Lance’s mind?

      Yes and I’m living proof of that. But the question that more accurately reflects what’s going on in this circumstance is “Is there any evidence that would change Lance’s argument?” You see, when you are trained in apologetics and “defending the faith” you will often argue harder than you actually believe. You’ll double down on your logic even when internally you’re thinking you might be wrong.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Sorry to necropost, but I personally know two ex-Christians–one a rather big name in his little pond–who deconverted because they got too serious about apologetics. Even C.S. Lewis wrote about how apologetics made him realize just how weak his religion’s answers were to these sorts of questions.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Lance: But an all knowing God would know that had they’d be given the chance, they still would have rejected him.

    So, out of the entire world that existed up until the ministry of Jesus, the only people who would not have rejected him just happened to be born in that narrow timespan and small area that would give them the opportunity to hear of him? Wow, that is an amazing stroke of luck!

    Me: How is an eternal hell just? Why does hell even need to exist at all?

    Lance: Because justice requires the punishment of wrong doing.

    And thus by Lance’s own argument, God is absolutely unjust; for all wrongdoing (except blasphemy against the Holy Ghost) is forgiven of those who are saved; and since their wrongdoing is not punished, no justice is done.

    Yet a person could have led an absolutely blameless life, but for the “crime” of not believing in Jesus (even if he or she never had the opportunity to hear about Jesus in the first place), he or she is punished eternally for a finite transgression. Which is doubly unjust.

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  3. These conversations do get interesting. I do agree that the arguments leads to the idea that free will is an illusion, however, I think it’s not free will on the part of humanity, but on God that is an illusion. Let’s think about the parameters of the argument here:
    1. God exists
    2. God is all powerful except for manipulating free will
    3. God knows all possible outcomes of all possible decisions to the end of time, and further knows what choices each person will make in each situation.
    4. God is just and will always make decisions that will do the most amount of good (or the least amount of harm, as the case may be).

    Apply game theory thinking to these parameters. If you’re playing a game of chess with someone, and you know ahead of time with perfect clarity what moves they will make in response to any of yours, you’ll always win. Even though you know your opponent’s moves ahead of time, from their perspective it’s still a conscious decision on their part. You also may lose pieces from time to time, but in the end you will always have the winning move. However, at that point you’re not really making a decision with each of your moves, you’re just plotting the most efficient path to victory.

    Now apply this to the situation with God. Here God has perfect clairvoyance and will always make the moves that will result in the most amount of good. God knows what decisions everyone will make in any given situation, and so will manipulate all situations within His power in order to cause the most good decisions possible. God may have to make sacrifices some times and allow some acts of evil to take place (losing pieces), but it’s all for the greater eventual goal of doing good ( His parameters for winning the game). If that’s the case though, then God really doesn’t have free will to make those moves; He is bound by the parameter of having to make choices that result in the most good, just like an AI with a prime directive.

    So if this is the case, God is basically just a difference engine that has already run its script and is now just playing out the moves already calculated. In terms of pure theoretical logic, such a situation on its own could exist, and fits with the description given in some places of there being a divine plan. However, calculating out the complexity of the entire infinite universe to infinite time would require a being infinitely larger than the universe itself, at which point trying to justify that would really just be making things overly complicated. And even if that is the case, is that really a being worth worshiping?

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    • Here’s what’s wrong with that scenario; God doesn’t have to create life that will simply be damned for eternity. God doesn’t have to create hell. God doesn’t have to create Satan or allow him in the garden. God could prevent the creation of cancer and malaria. God doesn’t have to actively curse humanity and the planet. God doesn’t have to flood the planet causing children to drown to death. God doesn’t have to pass a law that gives rape victims over to their rapists. God doesn’t have to require something or someone else die for another’s sin.

      If God is real, and if he is all powerful, then he has the free will to not create suffering. If he is all knowing then he could figure out a way to be a lot less abstract and me more real in the eyes of people on earth.

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      • Oh absolutely, and there’s more than that wrong with it. My line of thinking is that someone making the above argument would have to assume that those evils are the better alternatives than what would happen due to the free will choices that would be made in scenarios where they did not occur. Since free will is the only thing God in that argument cannot affect, that would have to be the ultimate cause of evil (since otherwise God would have to choose to eliminate it), and that any negative things that happen are the result of God trying his best to play around our ability to make choices for ourselves. Again, not really a desirable worship position to be in once you’ve thought the consequences of those parameters out. Free will as the root of all evil, who the hell wants to believe in that?

        The only argument I can see against the annihilation idea is that may involve not being able to create a universe at all, at least not with free will, which in turn would ultimately end up with less good done. If our ability to make choices is where the possibility for evil comes in to play (and I can kind of seeing that make sense, if you have the option to make a choice, then you have the option to make a bad one, where as no option means the good decisions are just dictated to you), and if God cannot affect free will and thus cannot create a universe without it, then the only way to eliminate the bad results of free will is to eliminate the universe as a whole. Now, if God’s prime directive is to do the most good possible while averting the most bad possible, then deciding not to create the universe keeps the score effectively at 0. If creating the universe will ultimately result in just slightly more acts of good than acts of evil, if you scored each positively and negatively respectively and the end score would be just +1, then from a difference engine perspective it is more morally just to go on and create the universe and deal with the negative consequences. This of course assumes that it actually will balance out to a positive result. It could just be forever balanced at 0, and that God just never learned the lesson of futility that Joshua the AI figured out in War Games (“Strange game. The only winning move is not to play.”).

        And just to be clear, I of course don’t think this is what is happening. This is just what I see being the ultimate conclusion when taking the terms of existence as Lance put forth and stretching them out logically.

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  4. Nice. But I think there’s an easier demonstration. If god knows he will flood the world, intending to eliminate all the dinosaurs and most people (but not the fish), can he change his mind?

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  5. I would be surprised if any Christian in their heart sees a Hell of eternal conscious torment as being fair or just. Surely even the hardest line person would say that after a set period of time torment should ease? Now does that mean that Christians are in their heart more forgiving than their God?

    The argument that God does not send people to Hell, they send themselves, doesn’t wash with me.

    I really think that a doctrine of eternal conscious torture in Hell, is a weak link in Christian theology. Unless people are prepared to question whether God is good.

    Hell just seems so clearly to be a human construct to deal with the problem of an apparent lack of justice in this life. It has the side benefit for an organised religion as being the ultimate disincentive to leave the faith. The Apocalypse of Peter that almost made it into the NT detailed the torture meted out to sinners.

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  6. That’s one of my favorite questions for the holy rollers – what happens to people who haven’t heard the gospel because they live in remote areas of the world?Are they condemned to hell because they haven’t left everything they’ve ever known and hopped on a plane to the West to hear the good word? The missionaries can’t reach everyone – so I guess the ones who don’t hear the word in time just burn in a lake of fire. That’s pretty unfair. It’s like testing a student on material you haven’t taught, and then giving them an F. I have strong, negative feelings about missionaries but I won’t derail your comments section. 🙂

    And I will never understand how an all powerful, all knowing God could allow sinners to be born and then condemn them to hell for their actions. This completely contradicts free will.

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  7. Yunno when I was a christian I tried to think of a way to justify this and the Answer i came up with was that if Time branches out into different paths then god would know every single path and the cause and effect of each path or choice taken. A god like this could both know all the timelines and how they branch out , but also this would allow for freewill in the sense that God would know each possible outcome , but since we are an Organism with freewill then we are Ultimately making the choices , we are the ones taking the paths while god waits outside of time watching and waiting.
    This would allow for the christian god to not be sadistic or evil and to truly give humans freewill , he might know each and every outcome , but if we are the pilots of our destiny then we Ultimately choose the paths we go down and if god cannot make us go down a path because it would violate our freewill then god is limited in his own powers.

    Too Tired to type out more to explain , if people wanna expand upon this or poke holes in it then be my guest .-.

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    • The ‘many branches’ idea is one employed by more sophisticated apologists, but the explanation/rationalization comes well after the proposition was asserted by the Catholic Church (variously supported in the bible). The proposition of god’s omniscience clearly is about knowing what will happen after the probability wave collapses. If it is only an awareness of all possible timelines, that form of “omniscience” is not very different from anyone who speculates about the future (if I drive to work today, I might get into a car accident, or I might not). So, while god may be aware of all possible outcomes, god is also fully knowledgeable about the precise outcome (Bemish will have a car accident while driving to work). Incidentally, this awareness of precise outcome suggests that god wouldn’t bother with all possible outcomes as such inefficiency would hardly represent a perfect form of life (assuming god lives).

      Liked by 1 person

  8. So one of my problems with the whole idea that we make our own choices and bear the punishment for them, and it’s not God’s fault we made those choices is that he rigged the game right from the beginning.

    We’re told that sin is in the world, our world, because Eve ate the fruit and gave it to Adam.

    But of course evil, in the form of the serpent, was already there in the garden with her, tempting her. So… Evil entered the garden / our world not because of Eve’s actions, but because the big guy banished the rebel to the same place he put the innocents. That’s like combining your maximum security prison with your kindergarten, telling the kids to stay out of the candy, leaving the kids alone with an adult prisoner, and then blaming the kids for listening to the adult who was actually there with them.

    And *how long* was the serpent allowed to work on Eve? The way you usually hear the story in church, it sounds like it only took one chat.

    But the game was rigged – there was no death in the garden. The serpent could just keep talking and keep talking and keep talking, and nothing was ever going to change until either Adam or Eve succumbed. Then, and only then, would something change. But it’s all Eve’s fault, dontcha know…

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  9. Yo,

    Just found your blog. Interesting stuff. I’ve been an atheist since I was 13 years old, not because I was one of those “mad at God” kids, but because I simply didn’t believe it. My folks had started taking us to the Iglesia Ni Christo (Church of Christ – Tagalog) a couple years earlier. They were very into it. I never really believed, but didn’t really know how to tell them that I didn’t believe the same way they did until my Freshman year in High School. It didn’t go well.

    Alas, I ripped off the band-aid and am all the better for it 20-something years later.

    I guess my question is this: Why don’t you just extricate yourself from the “job”, get a new job. Maybe move to a new city and make new friends and all that.

    If your’e still preaching as an evangelical, that’s well….you know.

    It must sting like a bee to stand up there on Sundays and preach what you don’t actually believe.

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  10. A comment about the job prospect: an employed person is always more desirable than an unemployed person. Plus, it would at least give you sales experience (something outside of pastoral experience). I’d say go for it and just keep applying for other jobs while there (if you can afford to).

    Also, take your pastoral experience and break it down — what job skills does that job require? People skills, conflict resolution, sales, public speaking, leadership, etc. Look for jobs that require those skills. Seeing a career counselor might be a good idea, too.

    Good luck!

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  11. PNF,

    You imply that the Bible says that people will suffer for eternity in hell, never dying and always in agony. Where exactly in the Bible does it say that? I know it says the flames of hell never burn out, but where does it say the people in hell will suffer agony forever and ever?

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    • Phil, as much as I would love to debate the Biblical foundations for hell, it’s not really something I want to spend time on for a few reasons:

      1) I don’t believe in either Hell or the Bible, so defending either of them seems moot to me.
      2) If you don’t believe in Hell as a place of eternal conscious torment, then I’d rather not attempt to change your mind. Your rejection of a classic Hell will probably make you a kinder person when acting in faith towards others around you. So I have no motivation to “prove” you wrong.
      3) Hell is not the foundation for my rejection of the God of the Bible. Even if I were to agree with you that Hell was unbiblical, that wouldn’t bring me any closer to faith. Even if we erased the entire New Testament (where the doctrine of Hell is found and developed) I would still have plenty of moral, ethical, and logical objections to a belief in a biblical god.

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      • Ok, so your disbelief is because of moral, ethical and logical reasons.

        The next logical question is why does God need to be moral and ethical to be the creator of the universe? Isn’t God allowed to do whatever he wants as God? I mean, it’s nice if he is moral and ethical, but what if he is not? Does that preclude him from being the creator?

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      • Well you’re absolutely right. Morality is certainly not a necessity for a deity. However, the Christian understanding of the god in the bible is that he is a moral being and the foundation of morality.

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  12. Phil, following your questions (“Ok, so your disbelief is because of moral, ethical and logical reasons.” ) you appear to be of the view that disbelief needs to be justified/explained. Is this the case? Logically, it is belief that needs to be justified or explained. If you dump the baggage of biblical indoctrination and replace it with any other far-out concept, explaining ‘dis’-belief is kinda absurd.
    Why don’t you believe that each human contains a millionth of the soul of the goddess Sofia, hidden there so one day she can reassemble and ascend to the Plymera?

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    • The reason for disbelief was given voluntarily.

      The issue here is that sometimes we set up criteria that is irrelevant to the subject. We’ve set up a box that God needs to fit into. It’s like one of your children telling you “You can’t be my dad because you don’t give me lollies every day,” or “You can’t be my dad because you let me get hurt at the playground.” Whether you give lollies every day or prevent accidents at the playground neither proves nor disproves you being the father. It’s illogical.

      So just because morality isn’t being played out in the way we expect, it doesn’t mean God is dead.

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      • Sorry that last line should say…

        So just because morality isn’t played out in the way we expect, mean that God is dead.

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  13. Yes – good point, absolutely. I’ll extend it if I follow your thinking:

    A god isn’t needed / should not be required to provide:
    morality;
    fairness;
    an explanation /justification for arbitrary and capricious life;
    the purpose of people/trees/animals/Ebola/cancer.
    Therefore the absence or presence of these things does not disprove god/creator. Do I have that right?

    Similarly, god isn’t needed to provide:
    how the universe came to be;
    the emergence of life;
    the emergence of mitochondria that enables higher forms;
    an afterlife.

    Therefore the absence or presence of these things does not disprove god/creator. Correct?

    So what attribute of existence is left such that its presence or absence would disprove god/creator?

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    • Actually, when you look at all the evidence of how the universe came to be and how life could have started, there is absolutely nothing to show.

      We have no observations of planets or stars forming. We see them all fully formed. To say we know without a doubt how the universe started is bluff.

      Natural, abiogenic, chemical processes can’t produce anything even remotely close to a mitochondrion. Let’s see a cell membrane form abiogenically and then I’ll be more convinced. The fact that we can’t produce living mitochondria even if we wanted to in the laboratory speaks volumes of the complexity required for life.

      The theory of Evolution is hollow too. There are no examples of organisms gaining newly effective genes which were previously ineffective. We have plenty of examples the other way around though, where effective genes become ineffective such as Flightless Cormorrants, albinism, and hairless cats and dogs.

      So the case for natural processes to be the cause of life is overwhelmingly non-existent.

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      • The idea that we have no examples of organisms gaining newly effective genes is completely bunk. Clearly you have no understanding of Natural Selection or Survival of the Fittest.

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      • Sure, genes can be morphed and mutated, but to evolve from a microbe to a human you still need to gain genes. I’m sure you’re also aware that Natural Selection never creates anything so it is not evolution. It is simply a filter to remove the less fit. To evolve from scales to feathers, you’re going to need to gain genes that code for making feathers.

        So if you’re going to be properly convinced that evolution is a fact, you need to at least give an example of an organism that had a net gain in genes.

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      • To PNF:
        Yes, our genes are evolving but in the downward direction. With each passing generation we are seeing more and more genes in decline: hereditary diseases passed on and more and more people with pre-cancerous genes. Even mitochondrial DNA is running down with scientists now resorting to transplanting healthy mitochondria into eggs of women with defective mitochondria.

        As for these 5 signs of human evolution, can’t you see they’re just stringing you along? Let’s think critically about them.
        1. Lactose tolerance ability is an example of downhill mutation. Those who are Lactose tolerant have lost the regulatory gene that shuts off lactase production in maturing babies. Clearly a loss of gene function rather than a gain.

        2. How do we know that our ancestors had bigger jaws? Isn’t that just an assumption? As for the loss of wisdom teeth, we should really find which genes are responsible for wisdom teeth before we jump to conclusions.

        3. How do you know how healthy people were 40,000 years ago? Have we got their DNA? So ok, we’ve found that TB and Leprosy resistance is present in nearly everyone from the Middle East, India and parts of Europe, but does that mean that there aren’t other people in other parts of the world carrying the resistant gene too? Looks more like variations of a gene rather than the gain of a new gene that was previously non-functioning.

        4. Is there a correlation between head size and intelligence? Anyway, the intelligence of past civilizations is nothing to laugh about. Precision construction like the pyramids and stonehenge is no mean feat.

        5. Again, how do we know there were no blue-eyed people over 10,000 years ago? Did we discover some fossils with blue eyes or brown eyes, or retrieve their DNA?

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      • My apologies Phil, I’d assumed some motivation and interest in the science, but I take it that you’re a Young Earther. Personally, amazing realty is much more interesting & compelling than ancient, culturally-derived explanations. Have you seen the Hubble pictures of primordial hydrogen-helium galaxies? Stunning!

        I could of course point you to actual observations of planetary and stellar development in addition to the predictive accomplishments of evolution. The mere presence of light that has traveled for billions of years should be sufficient for an individual not invested in a particular conclusion to deduce a crippling incompatibility with the implications of literal biblical ‘science’. Interestingly, hard core biblical literalism only developed over the last 100-150 years. Prior to that, discontinuity between observation and doctrine mostly revolved around issues of hierarchical authority structures.

        My feeling is that in cases of high-consequence belief, data (and global data consistency) is irrelevant. The belief IS the thing, and if the consequence of data is destruction of the belief (especially a belief associated with not dying/immortality), belief wins. Belief wins even if it requires a vast, unparalleled cooperative & totally secret conspiracy of all scientific & academic institutions around the world to explain away the data.

        I always think that it’s kinda funny for sciency folks to keep throwing data at creationists. The ability to evaluate such data only comes in the wake of a personality-driven crisis or event.

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      • Phil – With the questions I’d posed on July 10th, I’d hoped to have a higher-level discussion about the role and nature of a deity given what is known & observed in the universe. Can a deity that is not necessary to “fill the gaps” still exist? Or: assuming God is a natural attribute of existence, what would God wonder about finding “himself” existing? If “he” always existed, could “he” be aware of “his” origins?

        Still, there is another opportunity for discussion with a thoughtful creationist . I’m really curious – what is more important to you: Truth or Belief? Similarly, if God put together a universe that is consistent with even rudimentary scientific observations (eg 14B years old, the distribution of elements due to nucleosynthesis, the time required of geological structures to form, the transition from a methane to oxygen atmosphere, aspects of physiology that can only be explained by transitional forms, etc), can a creationist that denies these attributes of God’s creation be a good & righteous person?

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      • To Bemish:
        Truth of course trumps belief. The question is, can we really know the truth of billions of years ago when nobody was around? A lot of things can be made up if no one was there.

        When it comes to the age of things, there’s some fairly conflicting data.
        Dinosaur bones supposed to be over 65Mil years old carbon date as 20-39K years old in the lab. They can’t both be right.
        http://www.dinosaurc14ages.com/carbondating.htm

        10 year old lava rocks from Mt St Helens give radiometric dates of 340K to 2.8Mil years old. If radiometric dating can’t reliably date rocks of known age, how can you trust them with rocks of unknown age?
        http://creation.com/radio-dating-in-rubble

        The same tuff of volcanic rock can give a whole range of radiometric dates. How do they pick the right date? They pick the one that agrees with the fossil. Kaching! Rigged.
        http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CD/CD031.html

        And how do you know the atmosphere used to be methane if there’s no record of it?
        Transitional forms? Science fiction really. Just think of a nice story to link one to the other.

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  14. Phil,

    Truth trumps belief? Yes and no. We are evolutionarily wired for belief over truth. We would all like to say that truth trumps belief (even Scientologists and (surviving?) Heaven’s Gate members), but the vast diversity of the ‘truths’ from belief systems from around the world tells us the ability to even seek out truth without objective tools is limited. You may feel like you are a truth-seeker, but I wonder if you have availed yourself to all belief systems (e.g. Nestorianism, Monophysitism, Mormonism, Quakers Jehovah’s Witness, Wahhabi, Islam, Sikhism, Scientology, Zoroastrianism, etc) and objectively selected one over all others based on consistency and reproducibility. Or against all odds, were you miraculously born into a belief system that is very much like the one you find yourself in today?

    You provided several links to what you might think of as ‘data’. Your ‘data’ only supports the notion that science itself evolves gently over time. Even if there are measurement errors of various metrics, that does not imply anything about the validity of, say, Kardecist Spiritism.

    Since you are a truth seeker, consider the sources and qualifications of your ‘data’ and make a pledge to yourself that you will select data based on its pedigree, not objectives of the organization providing the data or alignment with a preexisting belief you hold. You should never use a “.com” source for data without some corroboration from a peer-reviewed paper that reflects some consensus that does not depend on the belief system of the reviewer, i.e. a reviewer from China should have approximately the same response to the paper as a reviewer from Texas.

    Since I am also a perennial truth seeker, and willing to alter my views based on evidence, please send links (or at least the titles) of papers that support gross misconceptions of how radioactive decay functions. While legitimate papers would convince me that the errors bars are broad on this particular form of dating, they would not imply that the resolution requires the replacement of the diverse tools of science by a belief system divorced from many observations of nature around us such as the time light takes to traverse galactic distances or the distribution of nova and supernova products in the observable universe.

    What would really support your belief system would be peer-reviewed papers that assess the validity of what you seem to know to be true. A paper that finds evidence for the order of biblical creation (and is consistent with both creation stories in Genesis), would hopefully serve to suggest a deity, rather than believing in a deity first and then looking only for information that supports the prior conclusion. Such a paper would perhaps discuss the evidence that the Earth came into existence before all other solar and extra-solar objects (the Sun, Moon and stars). I would really appreciate links (or titles) of papers that would revolutionize observations of the universe and support the existence of one particular god (or gods) above all others or none.

    You ask how can I believe what was around before I was around to observe it? This is both a philosophical question (How do I know that I didn’t suddenly spring into existence a split second ago to find myself typing with a full set of memories/ethics/language and observational facilities like the story of Adam and Eve?), and a question of interest to the truth-seeker about how scientific evidence works (assuming that I, and all the ‘evidence’, didn’t just spring into existence). There are excellent records that remain available and observable today, which is why papers can be supported by repeatable observation or experiment. Look at Principles and Perspectives in Cosmochemistry (Springer publishing 2010 or so) – the section on stellar structure and evolution for instance. This respectable tome describes the (very long) process of creating elements that seeded the primordial solar system. Other papers describe nuclear research that explains the activity within stars. Then, observations of very ancient 13 billion-year old galaxies confirm these sources of data by revealing that these galaxies are comprised mostly of hydrogen and helium.

    An excellent book for a truth seeker, and one that is written by a religious person from a religious perspective that you may find palatable, is Kenneth Miller’s Finding Darwin’s God. This would be a good starting point to help you identify the types of papers and texts that would open up reality to you. Really, the truth is much more interesting than what was imagined three to four millennia ago. And let’s imagine there is a god – wouldn’t ‘he’ prefer that you got it right rather than substituting the preachings of a bunch of televangelists and bronze-age tribesmen for what ‘he’ gave you the ‘reason’ to see?

    Again – please send along any papers or academic texts (such as those from an .edu source) that are published and peer-reviewed that support either that all measures of the age (or other attribute) of the universe are grossly wrong, or papers that identify some evidence of the existence of your deity – a deity that you have hopefully selected by evaluating the merits of all deity belief systems. I’d really like to know.

    May we both have good fortune in our common quest.

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    • Evolutionarily wired for belief over truth? How do you know? Have evolutionary wirings been identified? This sounds more like urban myth to me. As many people as there are who put belief over truth, there will also be as many people putting truth over belief. No consensus really.

      The last link I sent to you was from an Atheist’s apologist’s website so surely you would trust them with the data they’ve presented. They might seem very satisfied that a date was agreed upon in the end but it demonstrates how fickle radiometric dates can be.

      Another link I can send to you is an abstract from a paper done by researchers from the Department of Geophysics and Geochemistry, Australian National University. The abstract contains most of the necessary information but you can always purchase the paper if you want to read it in greater depth.

      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0016703769901525

      You’ll notice the great paucity of .edu websites that support Creationism but please appreciate that secular universities are loath to publish anything that is negative towards Evolution. Peer reviewers at secular universities generally only concern themselves with the ‘how’ of evolution, not the ‘if’ of evolution. Anything speaking against evolution would not even be reviewed. It’s as simple as that.

      Watch Ben Stein’s documentary “Expelled, no intelligence allowed”

      to see how Universities and Media outlets are quick to chop down any academics and journalists that speak negatively about the evolution theory. Skip the lengthy credits intro by going to 4:10.

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      • Phil,

        I’m curious how you came to this site. I’d assumed you were interested in the ironic and torturous journey PNF has taken. However, it could be that you, perhaps because of confirmation bias and the stakes involved, are in a frame of mind in which “no amount of data will alter what you know to be true”. There are studies of this cognitive state, some of which indicate that we use a different part of our brain when we are confronted with information that is inconsistent with fixed truths. This part of our brain limits the ability to absorb new data and works to develop objections only. We employ other areas of our brains when are trying to integrate new information from learning about something that we are not familiar with. If you are not really on a journey, and not really interested in the ‘truths’ known by others, whether they be adamant Sikhs, Scientologists, Mormons, or scientists, nothing I, or anyone else can say to you will change your mind – this is one indication of how our brains are wired for belief. There are physiological and neurochemical mechanisms that come into play. In the words of one book on neuropsychology, the brain has “a mind of its own”. Part of the journey is to recognize the influence of these sorts of brain mechanisms.

        You seem to believe that cognitive bias are “urban legend”. This flat dismissal, which you might intuitively feel closes the subject, is a fallacious defense known as “Argument from Personal Incredulity”.

        As you look at the world around you with so many different beliefs in addition to non-belief, how do you account for the notion that actual truth is only known by you? Don’t you find it strange that when you describe your truth, many do not agree with what to you is so amazingly obvious? As one tiny example: Jesus is thought by Christians to be “the son of (a) god” – a nod to Greek mythology inspired by the desire to make Yeshua-Jesus on-par with Homeric heroes and thus appeal to the gentile Hellenistic societies of the first millennium. This idea runs totally counter to the Islamic view of Jesus – one that rejects pagan belief systems and elevates Jesus to be one of only three divinely-created beings (can you guess the other two?). Both you and Islamists know your respective truths to be the ‘real truth’ (and perhaps pity the other’s ignorance).

        Have you ever wondered how it is that you were born into the “right religion”? Isn’t it ironic that every adherent believes that they, too, were lucky to have been born into their particular religion, but yet in your case it is actually true? Back in the 1520’s Martin Luther said: “Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things.”

        Have you wondered at a (your) reality which has as a necessary component the most successful conspiracy that has ever occurred or even been imagined? A global conspiracy that subverts all scientists from diverse disciplines over the last several hundred years to continue to fabricate observations that corroborate each other through some silent international and intercultural convention? Can you explain how governments and institutions the world over willingly spend billions of dollars on fabricated basic research to support the conspiracy’s objectives? Can you please explain the goal of the conspiracy? And how telescopes can be employed as tools of the conspiracy, their optics co-opted to seem to capture photons that are millions – billions – of years old?

        Please also explain why you think nearly all universities – religious and secular alike – are “loath to publish anything that is negative towards Evolution”.

        Can you justify the notion that if you find an inconsistency in geological dating, for example, the only conclusion is that the science of the bible is true? Said another way, do you believe that a scientist with complete and total ignorance of the bible would conclude the universe is, for example, 6000 years old? Similarly, if the premise is that the bible is infallible, would clear examples of its inconsistency negate your world-view?

        As I said – no data that I can provide or that can be observed will dissuade you, and as Fritz Perls opined: “Truth can be tolerated only if you discover it yourself”. For you, “Expelled, no Intelligence Allowed” is actual truth. I wonder if the article in the link would be of any sustained interest to you: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/sciam-reviews-expelled/

        One principle that the producers of “Expelled” seem to invoke is that “a lie in service of the truth is not a lie”. Would you agree?

        Like

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